Categories
Connections deaf Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Live Theatre Speechreading/Lipreading

Michael Conley Playwright, Reading Lips

Our guest this week is playwright Michael Conley who talks about his play “Reading Lips“. Michael was born in a small town in Kansas. After high school in Chicago and college at the University Delaware, he moved to New York. He received his MFA in screenwriting from Columbia University. Michael currently resides in San Diego and is the Co-Vice President of the San Diego Chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America.

Michael’s plays have been presented in New York, San Diego and Philadelphia.

Michael: Writing “Reading Lips” brought out a part of my identity that I didn’t even know was there. Meeting people with a hearing loss and learning that they experienced the same challenges I have always faced made me realize that I’m part of a larger community. That although I had been struggling my whole life with developing tips on how to “get by” (as I call it), everyone else was trying to get by as well.

Working on the play introduced me to a lot of people I would otherwise not have met. Meeting those who used ASL to communicate made me want to learn ASL. That in turn led to studying Deaf Culture—this history that we all share (even if peripherally).

At the time, I thought “Deaf people” were only people who had no hearing at all. I remember asking someone who was completely deaf if they consider me as Deaf. “Sure!” Not only did that give me more insight into the range of hearing losses people have, but it also gave me an appreciation of how inclusive and embracing the Deaf Community is.

Chelle:
I love making connections with others who have hearing loss. Everyone has something to teach me. I attend Audible Talkers Toastmasters meetings which are held online. I’ve been a member for a year and a half. Their meetings are accessible to the Hard of Hearing (HoH) with live captioning and automatic speech recognition. HoH members get a transcript, or outline, of each speech before the meeting, allowing us to enjoy the live speech and provide more effective feedback. The club is supportive and their members, HoH, hearing, English as a second language, and more, are each fascinating in their own way.

Michael was a guest at recent meeting (anyone can attend as a guest). Alongside his name I noticed readinglips.com. Of course I had to investigate that! It turns out Michael is a playwright and that makes it all the more interesting so we invited him to podcast with us. It was great having him with us.

On his website, Michael shares information about his play, “Reading Lips”, a full-length play about being gay and Deaf. While writing the play, he posed the questions, “Am I gay man who happens to be Deaf? Or a Deaf man who just happens to be gay?” In the upcoming podcast with Hearing Loss LIVE!, Michael shares, “Having a hearing loss has made far more of an impact on the choices I made in life,” and that made me think.

Hearing loss changed the course of my life after the last big drop. How many times have I thought ahead and said, No I can’t go. It won’t be accessible to me. I quit the one job I thought I’d be doing all my life because of hearing loss. I went into a deep dark hole which took a few years to climb out of. Hearing loss impacts our lives in many ways.

Hearing loss affects relationships in our family too. During our podcast together, Michael tells a story about how growing up with a hearing loss affected his family life. I’m not going to spoil the story here, you’ll have to watch.

Gallaudet University Campus, Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: Reading Lips website
June/July 2019: Michael Conley studying American Sign Language (ASL) at Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C., the world’s only university for the Deaf and people with a hearing loss.

Photo Credit: Reading Lips website

Michele: Before our podcast with Michael, I read everything on his website and searched for more information on the internet. I was especially interested in his experience at Gallaudet University, as I’ve thought about doing something similar—spending a semester or two studying American Sign Language (ASL) and immersing myself in a community rich in Deaf culture. I especially love Washington DC, so there’s that too.

Because there was a no-voicing policy in his program at Gallaudet, Michael talked about how liberating it was not to have to wear his cochlear implant (CI) or hearing aid, and not having to position himself to read people’s lips. I can relate. I’ve never worn hearing aids (other than in trials) or CI. If there is any consolation in not finding help with technology, it is a certain freedom from trying to hear better—something members of Deaf culture understand and embrace—which in turn has allowed me to focus more on communicating better.

I sometimes think people with hearing loss are so focused on their quest for technology to help them hear better, they miss the really important step of learning to be comfortable with who they are without any type of aid or communication tool.

We are likely never going to hear as well as we would like to in some situations—battery failure, too much noise or distance, and/or weak WiFi and cell phone service depletes the effectiveness of our hearing devices, assistive listening technology, and ASR (automatic speech recognition) apps. Even lipreading, textual English, and ASL are a challenge without a readable speaker, captioner, or interpreter.

However, if we can learn to communicate confidently even without any of the valuable communication tools and technology we rely on, we are going to have a life with fewer limits. That is no small thing.

Julia: We are always looking for like minded folks to podcast and blog with. Chelle asked us to review Michael’s website and see if we liked the fit. I read the first three lines of “Reading Lips” and responded, oh yes!

I love the theater. Grew up on it. By age eight I could tell folks what costumes were different in that season of Ballet West’s “The Nutcracker”. I love musicals and often sing show tunes around my house—some lyrics I make up depending on my mood. I’ll take thought provoking, personal growth and experience, small theater any day. I would love to see a production of this play. It’s different and refreshing. It’s about finding your identity. As much as I love the originals, small playhouses where the director and playwright work together I find so enjoyable.

The first time I met Michael was in a Hearing Loss LIVE! Self Advocacy workshop presented by Michele Linder. Michael asked a question, why would folks not just ask for what you need? Why indeed! We need more HoH people to adopt this mindset. Be proactive, be diverse. Be the best HoH you can be!

Watch our companion podcast with Michael.

If you liked this podcast, try artist Liza Sylvestre who explores her hearing loss through art. Also take a look at our blog with Salt Lake Acting Company who offers open captioned plays.

Categories
Accessibility Advocacy ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) Captioning CART (live captioning) Cochlear Implants Communication Practices Connections Emotions, Psychological Stress Hearing Aids Hearing Loss Live Theatre Public Advocacy Speechreading/Lipreading Uncategorized

Hearing Loss and Hearing Partners

Written by Julia Stepp

Who is responsible for communication when hearing loss is part of your family dynamics? The person with the hearing loss, right?

Let me ask you; as the hearing partner are you saying any of the following:

  • You are purposely ignoring me.
  • Turn that damn TV down!
  • Why are you yelling at me?
  • What do you mean the phone isn’t working right? I hear fine.
  • Are you serious? Do you really think I said that?
  • What do you mean you don’t want to go out with our friends on Friday nights?
  • I think you need to see the doctor, something is not right with you mentally.
  • Is it just hearing loss? Oh no biggie then. We’ll just get some hearing aids. Just stick’em on and good to go.
  • We just spent $8000 on hearing aids, what do you mean you still can’t hear me?

One that has stuck with me over the years during Hard of Hearing workshops: Your hearing loss is now our life.

Hearing loss affects every family member, especially when it comes to communication. Communication is the key to staying connected. There are many tools that can help you stay connected. Most families don’t find these tools until the connection is a struggle and everyone is beyond frustrated.. My hope is that this finds folks before the connection is damaged.

Some simple things that every hearing partner/family member can do:

  • Get involved from the beginning. There will be a period of time my friend Sue refers to as the “I’m not there yet” statement. When they’re not there yet, you can still work staying connected.
  • Stop talking from another room. This is good practice for everywhere, including your job, if you’ve gone back to the office.
  • Stop talking with food in your mouth. Ew. Just. Ew.
  • Make sure you’re facing them. This helps them use body language to fit with what is being said. It also helps you to see their facial expressions to make sure they understand what you are saying. 

The more important the conversation the better the outcome will be if you can follow these simple rules.

The list above is good practice to use with everyone, not just those with hearing loss. You can practice it over and over everywhere you go because one in five people you meet will have a hearing loss. Plus, practicing everywhere you go makes it a habit.

There is evidence that shows getting hearing aids from the onset of a hearing loss have better outcomes. BUT making someone get hearing aids so they can hear YOU will not work as well as you’d like unless you change some communication habits. You will be disappointed. When you are both ready for hearing aids, be involved. Keep the connection:

  • Go to the Audiologist with your partner. Learn what hearing aids can and cannot do. Help keep a diary of sounds and what your partner would like to hear. 
  • Find out why T-coils are important. Find out where loops have been installed to use with T-coils
  • Learn how assistive listening devices work. We all love our bluetooth, right? There are ways to use your Bluetooth with personal devices. There’s also FM systems and WiFi assistive listening options. Look for the Assistive Listening Device (ALD) symbol in venues.
  • Learn more about caption options. Apps on phones and computers, television, landlines phones, and public venues, office meetings.
  • Loops, ALDs and captions can all be used even before the person is ready for hearing aids. 
  • If certain environments are no longer doable, keep a list and brainstorm ideas on how to make it work. If Friday night is date night with friends and your local hangout is too loud, start looking for a new hang out. And if that Friday night date night is a quiet home dinner for two. That’s okay too.

And something I cannot stress enough. JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP. Support groups for hearing loss allow the person with hearing loss to connect to others with shared experience. Support groups are where hearing partners can learn how to better support hearing loss too. Don’t let the hearing loss be your life. Live life better with hearing loss. 

Another important list that has helped my family is to know signs of hearing loss. 

  • Repeating questions you have answered (them making sure they heard right)
  • “What?” A lot of whats or huhs or say that again.
  • TV is becoming louder and louder.
  • Trouble hearing on a phone.
  • Not answering questions you ask, or answering incorrectly.

I watched my grandma’s friends and family misdiagnose her as being “senile” or showing signs of “dementia.” It was during a class provided at an HLAA chapter meeting on how to recognize symptoms of dementia that helped me realize that grandma did not have dementia. She needed her hearing evaluated and more life skills to help her participate in all her extra-curricular activities

Because I decided I should go to the Audiologist with grandma, we discovered she had been using lipreading to pass her hearing tests.

Even though I knew better, five years later I misdiagnosed dementia vs hearing loss in my own spouse. (BTW, he’s not there yet. My husband may never “be there.”) He has a mild hearing loss and still lives a full life at 73. We have practiced communication skills well over 20 years. This is  thanks to the fact that I work with and have many friends with hearing loss. No one is perfect and we all slip up. Daily. However, we own it when we don’t follow the rules and move on. Usually.

Octoberfest at Snowbird this past fall.

Keep connected. Don’t let communication with hearing loss manage your life. Manage the hearing loss instead. Learn, grow and most of all LIVE your life.

PS: JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP! Find out why with us.

If you liked this post, try Hearing Small Voices because kids are hard to hearing. Also we wrote early on about Hearing Loss: Family and Communication.

(No companion podcast.)

Categories
Communication Practices Hearing Loss Speechreading/Lipreading

Lipreading Concepts with Hearing Loss LIVE!

Registration link is here a month before classes begin.

Why Lipreading Concepts Before Lip Shapes?

Julia: There is a misconception that if you lose hearing you automatically read lips. Without knowing the concepts before you try to learn and understand the lip shapes makes for a tired student. Once the concepts are understood, students can learn lip shapes in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Chelle: While teaching lipreading with the state of Utah, we had 18 lessons. Each lesson was an hour and a half. Lip shapes and concepts were spread throughout each lesson. By lesson 4, I noticed a few people weren’t returning to class as it was overwhelming. In designing a new class with Hearing Loss LIVE!, we thought it would be more helpful to set people up with the concepts first so they are more confident later for lip shapes. 

Michele: As a lifelong lipreader, I know that when you are not confident in a situation your lipreading skills fly out the window. Keeping your composure is key. Obsessing about what you are NOT getting causes panic and works against you. Learning all of the moving parts of lipreading builds confidence, and so it makes sense to start Hearing Loss LIVE! lipreading classes with instruction and information about those concepts.

Lipreading Experience

Michele: When I was diagnosed with hearing loss in grade school, the doctor told my mother I was lipreading everything he said. I likely had had a hearing loss years before. I had no clue I was doing it, though the concept wasn’t completely foreign to me, as my grandmother was deaf and a lipreader. I’ve been lipreading for well over five decades, and the very first article that I wrote for publication was about lipreading. It is so much a part of who I am and how I communicate.

I have consulted on a few lipreading projects, transcribing a surveillance video for a law firm, and silent news footage for a documentary film. I did extensive research to prepare for both projects, but it was knowing the context and using all of the other fundamentals of lipreading that helped me make sense of what I saw on speakers’ lips while viewing the footage.

Julia: I have been involved off and on as a CART provider for Lipreading classes since 2010, both in Utah and California. As a Hard of Hearing Assistant for the State of Utah, I taught Lipreading classes online for a year. 

Chelle: I’m Hard of Hearing so I’ve been lipreading for years without knowing it. In 2013 or 2014, I started teaching the Speechreading class at the state Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center. I revised the class three times over the years, gaining experience while teaching… saving what worked and getting rid of what didn’t work. Example: Single syllable practice words destroyed the confidence of all us beginners. I changed the words to 2 or more syllables giving us more to go on. I also tried to pick common words we see daily. 

Lipreading Class experience online

Chelle: The pandemic hit and the HoH assistants were asking what they would do without in person classes. I had been wanting to try hybrid presentations to be more inclusive of people all over the state, not just certain locations. With the pandemic, I took a deep breath and within a month started the HoH program classes online. There was trial and error and thinking ahead about technology glitches so we had a teacher and backup person in case someone’s internet went down. It worked with a few jerks and bumps, which we smoothed out within a month. We found out lipreading classes are even better online than in person, because each person sits fairly close to the camera. In person we sat farther apart making it hard at times. 

Michele: Losing my hearing at such a young age hardwired me for lipreading. I am aware of how it works, but the nuances and technical aspects of articulation were new to me. When Utah opened up their online lipreading classes, I signed up for two separate classes. Being online worked great, as you could pin a speaker to view them close-up during practice. Once in a while someone’s screen would freeze, but there were no major glitches. I’ve heard many others with hearing loss over the years express an interest in learning to lipread or improve their skills, and having online classes really makes that possible no matter where you live.

Julia: My experience with lipreading in person wasn’t as a teacher but when we went online at the beginning of the pandemic, I found online was a much better platform for lipreading classes. You have the ability to turn the sound completely off but not your voice. In-person classes involve a lot of whispering. This may actually change the way you enunciate or move your mouth. 

Why I Love This Class

Julia: I learn so much from these types of classes that as a hearing person I didn’t understand before. It helps me to be better with my communication to someone with a hearing loss, because I know what may or may not come across when they are trying to lipread.

Michele: The best thing about the class was the people who attended. Getting to know one another, the camaraderie that developed, the humor, talking about our experiences, and learning from each other. We had some really awesome class discussions and came up with some improvements to the class together. I think we all gained a lot of confidence together.

An added benefit was becoming comfortable with video conferencing platforms with closed captions. I’ll be honest, I was nervous for the first few weeks. As much about Google Meet as the class. My hearing loss is profound, which means I hear no audio at all on the computer, so I was nervous about interrupting and contributing in class. It didn’t take long to become comfortable with both the class and Google Meet. The lipreading classes were actually my saving grace in those first months of Covid isolation. I am so thankful Utah opened up their online classes to other states.

Chelle: The Speechreading class gave me confidence. I learned a better way to communicate with people and became less fearful of social interaction. I found I had the added benefit of hearing better in noisy environments. Example: I cannot handle wearing my hearing aids at restaurants. The excess noise distracts me. (How do hearing people handle all that noise?!) Also, I’m not easily rattled anymore and can handle most communication situations that come up. I learned when it might be my fault for not understanding AND when it’s the speaker’s fault. 

Class Information

What: Live, in person Lipreading Concepts Class; 8 Lessons, Online with Google Meet
When: At various times of the year, check our registration page & social media.
Time: We change days and times to try to accommodate various schedules.
Cost: $50 per person ($6.25 per lesson)
Limit: 10 people per class
Registration is here and starts about a month before the class begins.

We completed our winter 2022 class and we are currently running a summer 2022 class. We plan to have a fall 2022 evening class starting in September.

Want to learn more about the class before registering? Join our free monthly event, Talk About It Tuesday. It’s held online via Zoom with CART/live captioning the first Tuesday of each month from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM. Ask us anything about hearing loss at this event. Use the registration link above.

Watch our short video on Lipreading Concepts on YouTube.

Michele and Chelle Explorations Lipreading in Years Past

(No podcast companion.)

Categories
Advocacy Speechreading/Lipreading

SHANNA GROVES: Lipreading Mom

Author and Hearing Loss Advocate Shanna Groves, Lipreading Mom, is our guest on this week’s Hearing Loss LIVE! podcast.

Michele first heard about Shanna in 2009 when a fellow SayWhatClub subscriber shared an HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America) call for submissions for hearing loss stories for a project Shanna was working on for them. Then, in 2012 Michele crossed paths with Shanna on the CCAC captioning forum.

Chelle became aware of Shanna in 2013 through volunteering for the SayWhatClub Social Media Team. She also participated in Shanna’s Show Me Your Ears campaign with her favorite translucent red hearing aids.

Both Chelle and Michele had an interest in lipreading and advocacy and shared Shanna’s blog articles on the SayWhatClub Facebook page. Shanna’s Stop Hearing Loss Bullying campaign is also notable for addressing bullying and the long range effects it has on self esteem.